Vernon in 1963
April 22, 1918|
Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania
|Died: September 24, 2008
|July 8, 1939, for the Washington Senators|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 27, 1960, for the Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Runs batted in||1,311|
|Career highlights and awards|
James Barton "Mickey" Vernon (April 22, 1918 – September 24, 2008) was an American Major League Baseball (MLB) first baseman who played for the Washington Senators (1939–48, 1950–55), Cleveland Indians (1949–50, 1958), Boston Red Sox (1956–57), Milwaukee Braves (1959), and Pittsburgh Pirates (1960).
Vernon served in World War II during two major league seasons. He retired from MLB in 1960 with 2,495 hits, and holds the major league record for career double plays at first base (2,044). He has the American League (AL) record for career games (2,227), putouts (19,754), assists (1,444) and total chances (21,408). He batted and threw left-handed.
During World War II, he served in the United States Navy and served with major league players Larry Doby and Billy Goodman on Ulithi in the South Pacific in 1945; both Goodman and Vernon personally inspired Doby to become a major league baseball player.
Vernon played for 14 full major league seasons (400 at bats or more) in his 20-year career. He batting over .335 twice, over .300 five times, and over .290 nine times. In 1954, He had a career high 20 home runs, 97 RBIs, a career high 14 triples. He led the AL three times in doubles with a total of 33. He also had 294 total bases, which was 2nd in the AL, behind Minnie Miñoso.
Over time, Vernon became one of the best-liked ballplayers, mainly through his unique personality and charismatic, but quiet, style. By his last game on September 27, 1960, before being released by the Pirates he was, at 42, the oldest player by almost a year, and one of the most popular players in the game. He had spent that season as the Bucs' first-base coach before being activated, and earned a world series ring as a member of the 1960 champions. Vernon is one of only 29 players in baseball history to have appeared in a major league game in four decades.
Vernon posted a career .286 batting average with 172 home runs and 1,311 RBIs in 2,409 games. The left-hander averaged 88 RBIs a year, and had 11 seasons with 80 or more, 3 with 90 or more. He accumulated 1196 runs with 137 stolen bases and a .359 on-base percentage. His career slugging percentage came out to .428, with a career high of .518 in 1953. He compiled 2,495 hits, with 490 doubles and 120 triples, in 8,731 at bats. He had 2,741 career total bases, with his career high coming in 1953 (315).
Coaching and managing
Vernon coached for the Pirates in 1960 under his longtime friend and manager Danny Murtaugh. During that world championship season, Vernon made his final appearance as a player, when he was activated on September 1 when the rosters expanded to 40 men. He appeared in nine games as a pinch hitter, with one hit in eight at-bats, while also serving as the Bucs' first-base coach. The following year, in 1961, he was given the job of managing the expansion Senators in their first year of existence. He did so from 1961 until the beginning of 1963. He had a career record of 135–227, a .373 winning percentage. He was a major league coach for the Pirates (returning there for a second term in 1964), St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Montreal Expos and New York Yankees. He managed at the AAA and AA levels of the minor leagues, and served as a batting instructor in the Kansas City Royals and Yankees' farm system before retiring from baseball.
Vernon died from a stroke at age 90, on September 24, 2008. He had resided in Media, Pennsylvania.
- MLB Record: Double plays at first base (2,044)
- American League All-Star (1946, '48, '53, '54, '55, '56, '58)
- American League batting champion (1946, '53)
- American League leader in doubles (1946, '53, '54)
- American League leader in extra base hits (1954)
- American League leader in fielding average (1950,'51, '52, '54)
- American League top 10 in MVP voting (1946, '53-third, '54)
- American League top 10 in triples (1941, '43, '46, '47, '51, '52, '53, '54, '55)
In August 2008, he was named as one of the ten former players who began their careers before 1943 to be considered by the Veterans Committee for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.
Playing in four different decades (1939–60), Vernon ended his career with 2,237 games at first base, second to only Jake Beckley (2,377) in major league history. He led the American League in fielding percentage four times, and the majors twice.
He became one of the few first basemen to finish his career with a .990 fielding percentage, and participated in more double plays than any other.
The Mickey Vernon Sports Museum at the Granite Run Mall in Media, Pennsylvania, honors Vernon's career, military service, and friendship with Murtaugh, among other artifacts.
- Baseball Hall of Fame balloting, 2009
- List of major league players with 2,000 hits
- List of Major League Baseball players with 400 doubles
- List of Major League Baseball players with 100 triples
- List of Major League Baseball players with 1000 runs
- List of Major League Baseball players with 1000 RBI
- List of Major League Baseball batting champions
- List of Major League Baseball annual doubles leaders
- List of Major League Baseball players who played in four decades
- Hitting for the cycle
- List of St. Louis Cardinals coaches